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Wednesday
Apr162008

Coconut Dream: A Love Affair with Tom Douglas' Legendary Coconut Cream Pie

Le Famous Coconut Cream Pie

* Not a coconut fan? There's another tip at the bottom!

Upon moving to Seattle, we were surprised to hear that one of the city's famous desserts was the Triple Coconut Cream Pie from restaurateur Tom Douglas' Dahlia Lounge (you may recognize the restaurant from the timeless classic Sleepless in Seattle). Our wariness was twofold: first off, while a good dessert, coconut cream pie has never been a major player in our dessert vernacular, more often something that we'll eat because it's there, a second or third choice at best. And second, did we really trust a restaurateur who had a neon sign in his own image boldly hung outside of the restaurant? Was it a gesture of self-deprecating tongue in cheek humor, or just plain ego? And so, two years of residence passed before we even tried this pie, which has been their bestselling dessert for over twelve years.

 

But oh, to think back to the day we finally did try the famous pie. As will happen from time to time, a baked good is so well-made that even if it's outside of your general taste preferences, it will make you a believer. The taste of fresh whipped cream, laced with vanilla and coconut, is the first taste that hits you: rich, creamy and decadent. At an indeterminate point, the whipped cream ends and the pie filling begins, filling the mouth with a custardy, indulgent cocunutty taste; that gives way to a light, flaky pastry crust, also infused with coconut--all summing up to make you think that maybe, just maybe, becoming morbidly obese on this stuff wouldn't be so bad at all. Their restaurant portion will satisfy Herculean appetites; servings for all appetites can be found next door at the Dahlia bakery: from mini individual "bites" to larger sizes depending on how big a crowd you're feeding (or, you know, how hungry you are).

Dahlia is OpenCloseup on mini pie from Dahlia Bakery

If you're coming to Seattle, we deem it worth seeking out; if you're not in the Seattle area, then don't despair, here's the recipe (which can also be found in the worth-buying book Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, available here)
December 2, 2007 (2)

Triple Coconut Cream Pie
(Makes one 9-inch pie)

Ingredients:

For The Coconut Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
For The Pie
  • One 9-inch Pie shell (go ahead, put coconut in the shell too!)
  • prebaked and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For Garnish
  • 2 ounces unsweetened "chip" or large-shred coconut (about 11/2 cups) or sweetened shredded coconut
  • Chunks of white chocolate (4 to 6 ounces, to make 2 ounces of curls)
Instructions

 

1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 Cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.

3. When the pastry cream is cold, fill the prebaked pie shell with it, smoothing the surface. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie, or spoon it over.

4. For the garnish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, watching carefully and stirring once or twice, since coconut burns easily, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls.

On The Plate
Cut the pie into 6 to 8 wedges and place on dessert plates. Decorate each wedge of pie with white chocolate curls and the toasted coconut.

Cuppie Sees the Sunrise in Seattle
A Step Ahead

If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be consumed within a day. Prepare the garnishes just before serving. The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored chilled in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above. Fill the pie shell and top it with whipped cream and garnishes when you are ready to serve the pie.
Recipe borrowed from Books-for-Cooks.com, Copyright © 2002.

Cupcakes at the Dahlia Bakery, Seattle

Of course, if you're not a coconut fan, we are also huge fans of the cupcakes at Dahlia Bakery. True Story: one time while walking up to the door, we walked into a girl and guy coming out. Says girl to guy in a vaguely sensual voice and through a chocolate-flecked mouth: "Oh my god this is the best cupcake I've ever tasted" -- and then her eyes kind of rolled back in pleasure. We'll have what she's having, please.

 

 

Dahlia Lounge and Dahlia Bakery are located side by side at 2001 4th Ave., Seattle; check them (and Tom Douglas' other restaurants) out at tomdouglas.com.


Dahlia Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

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Reader Comments (48)

My friend and I used to go and get birthday PIE because we love this coconut cream goodie so much.

YUM!

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

@ Kate, the bakery is about half the block up the street from Dahlia's entrance.

You can, if you have fortitude, get sandwiches or salads here as well (all to go, no seats). But...WHY? Get a coconut cream PIE! =)

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

That coconut pie looks and sounds so good!!

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

I have to make this pie!!!!!! I agree.. why is Seattle so far away? I'm new to cakespy... anyone have their fav spot in Chicago I should try this w/e??

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I know I'm going to dream about this delicious looking Coconut cream pie. Yummy!

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Thanks for reminding me of heaven. I need to go to that bakery and get one of everything now.

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

Coconut seems to be one of those things people either love or hate. I'm in the group that LOVE it. The crust looks very interesting..im gonna have to try it.

April 18 | Unregistered Commenterdefientchef

I think these are some of the best frosted cupcakes :). Oh, and I love the last post too - using fresh veggies as decorative food items is such a great idea. I love how fruits and veggies are so naturally beautiful :D.

P.S. Your little illustrations are so cute, that cupcake looks so friendly and adorable :).

Sophie
Flour Arrangements

April 18 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

ANY confection that makes your eyes roll back in your head is ok in my book!

Cor - I think I'm in love with Tom Douglas's coconut cream pie at first sight.

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

I am drooling here, that cocounut cream pie sounds SO delicious and yummy!! Thanks for sharing :D

Rosie x

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Cocounut cream ANYthing works for me! I'm definitely going to give this a try!

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Ohh..that recipe sounds so good!
If i make it for my big bossman and get a raise as a result, do i owe you a percentage? :-)

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Wow... pie... I had a great coconut cream cake a few weeks ago and now I want coconut cream pie!

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

i love your little cupcake and space needle illustration!

oh, the coconut cake looks delish.
and i love their sidewalk sign as well.

That is a mountainous, fluffy dream! I've never made a coconut cream pie (although I did toss them at a few people in college). Might be time to try my hand at this!

The secret ingredient in this pretty heart-shaped cake is whipped cream, which replaces butter as the fat and gives the cake an airy texture.

http://decorating-cake.blogspot.com/

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterSUPER

Anything coconut is, well, "orgasmic" in my mind.

;-)

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterCookie Jill

Oh I love coconut! How funyn, we went to the dahlia when I was in seattle last month with my sis and she raved about the coconut cream pie. I sat there watching her eat it with much jealosy. :-)

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

Kate: Yes! Like Owl Chick sez, it's right next to (kind of an annex of) the restaurant.

Josephine: Doing well, and if we make you hungry that is GOOD! Hope you are well too!

Swati: Yes, this one is a fine pie indeed!

Moonrat: Oh how you tempt us. I will be back in NYC in June! I will DEFINITELY be going!

Susan: Yes, that crust is definitely delectable!

Giz: Make the pie, you won't regret it! Nothing wrong with taking a trip FOR pie, either...

Owl Chick: No joke!! It really is that good! And I concur--their sandwiches etc look good but do you think I've ever tried one? take me to the PIE!

Kevin: Yes and yes!

Anonymous: If you're looking for spots in chicago, check out our interview with Claudia Saraniecki (you can see it in the "batter chatter" section)--she gives all sorts of Chicago suggestions!

Chuck: Me too! I dream of it often.

Lydia: Yup! At least you're lucky enough to have tried it at the source!!

Defientchef: Yup, coconut can be polarizing. But when you try it in something like this, it makes you a believer!

Sophie: Thank you! Glad you enjoyed both posts, and Cuppie is pretty friendly and adorable--but mischievous as well!

EB: I concur, absolutely!! That is a good trait in a dessert.

Cakelaw: Yes, it's a good one!

Rosie: You're welcome! Hope you get a chance to try or make it!

Ann: It's a great pie, hope you like the outcome! I'd like to see your mini version, please... :-)

Zen Chef: No percentage of the sales, but perhaps a literal piece of the pie would suffice!?

Christina: This one is worth making or seeking out!

Octavine: Thanks for the kind words! And you've got to visit them when you're in Seattle next!

T.W.: If you threw one like this at me, I probably wouldn't complain. :-)

SUPER: Thanks...I guess...

Cokie Jill: Ditto!! This is a fantastic usage of wonderful coconut!

Vegan Noodle: I wonder how hard this one would be to veganize? I know that soy creamer can yield a pretty decadent filling...it might be worth a try! Not just pie in the sky! (oh, bad me!)

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

those cupcakes look awesome, and my husband would just die for that coconut cream pie.

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterJerri

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this recipe. I've been dying to make a coconut cream pie and this seems the perfect excuse!

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I think I may just have to take a break from cupcakes soon to make that coconut cream pie. My god it looks delicious.

April 24 | Unregistered CommenterJade Is Green!
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